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    Coronavirus - advice and information for recreational boaters

    Guidance for boaters (updated 04/08/20)

    Government Guidance

    We can all help control the virus if we all stay alert. This means that Government guidance still expects you to:

    • stay at home as much as possible
    • work from home if you can
    • limit contact with other people
    • keep your distance from people not in your household (2 metres apart where possible)
    • wash your hands regularly

    You should not leave home if you or anyone in your household has symptoms.

    In the Home Countries, the return to boating is at different stages dependant on how the devolved administrations assess the threat. People who live in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland should follow the guidance in the country specific links that follow.

    RYA return to boating strategy

    The RYA has published a considerable amount of detailed information to support its “Return to Boating” strategy across the boating community.

    1. Our guidance

    Covid-19 preventative measures are vital in keeping you, your family and others safe and to minimise pressure on frontline services. The RYA will continue to support the National effort to control the spread of Covid-19 and assist members of the RYA family with any variations that might develop at a local level.  We support the Government’s desire to return to normality in a measured way and we recognise that we have a role to play by providing guidance to the RYA community on the application of the 2020 regulations.

    2. Our approach is considerate and conservative

    Considerate: be mindful of the potential impact that you could have on other water users and do not place unnecessary extra strain on the RNLI and emergency services.

    Conservative: help to minimise incident and accidents by taking an extra cautious approach to your boating.

    Our guidance on safe boating remains unchanged: know your limits; look after yourself; keep in touch and, above all, have a plan. As the restrictions are relaxed, we advise boaters to think about these factors.  The RNLI and the RYA have also worked in collaboration to produce joint safety guidance to help ensure that this summer is as safe as it can be.

    Coronavirus regulations

    The regulations enable the Government and devolved administrations to respond to the serious and imminent threat to public health which is posed by the incidence and spread of the virus.  

    While guidance sets out how governments expect people should behave, the regulations set out how people must behave and it is the regulations (rather than the guidance) that may be enforced within the law.

    The regulations in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are now significantly diverse but are still aimed at controlling the virus. You should be aware that the pace at which the regulations are being eased varies considerably between the four nations and you should read the country specific guidance below.   

    Recreational boating in England

    New regulations in England

    The latest regulation (Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) (No. 3) Regulations 2020; S.I. 2020/684) revokes S.I. 2020/350 and requires the Secretary of State to review the need for restrictions and requirements imposed by these Regulations at least once every 28 days, with the first review being carried out by 31st July 2020.

    This is supplemented by the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) (No. 3) Regulations 2020 (S.I. 2020/750) which empowers local authorities to give directions relating to individual premises, events and prohibitions, requirements or restrictions in relation to public outdoor places. S.I. 2020/750 also permits the Secretary of State to give a direction that requires a local authority to give a direction in these circumstances.

    The following provisions are important for the return to boating strategy:

    A business or providing a service which is listed in Schedule 2 must cease during the emergency period. The list is finite and this restriction does not include restaurants, public houses, bars – including restaurants and bars in hotels or members’ clubs.

    Restrictions on movement have been revoked. Therefore the requirement that “No person may, without reasonable excuse, stay overnight at any place other than the place where they are living” is also revoked and overnighting anywhere including on your boat is now permitted.

    Restrictions relating to gatherings (R.5) have been significantly amended. The restrictions on gatherings until 4 July have been revoked. Now the regulations permit gatherings of up to 30 people that take place in a private dwelling, on a vessel* and a public outdoor space. The limit of 30 people does not apply if:

    1. The gathering has been organised by a business, a charitable, benevolent or philanthropic institution, a public body, or a political body,
    2. The person responsible for organising the gathering (“the gathering organiser”) has carried out a risk assessment which would satisfy the requirements of regulation 3 of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999(14), whether or not the gathering organiser is subject to those regulations, and
    3. The gathering organiser has taken all reasonable measures to limit the risk of transmission of the coronavirus, taking into account the risk assessment carried out under paragraph (ii), what is reasonable has to take into account government guidance relevant to the gathering in question.

    *“Vessel” means any ship, boat, barge, lighter or raft and any other description of craft, whether used in navigation or not, but does not include government vessels.

    The regulations are the law and set out what you are compelled to do. The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) states that where Government guidelines or advice suggest that the public should or should not act in specific ways, failure to comply with such guidelines or advice is not an offence unless it is specifically covered by the regulations. For example, it is not an offence to fail to comply with social distancing guidelines.

    What you can and can’t do in England

    The UK Government is continuing to ease restrictions in England in a manner that is safe, cautious and consistent with its plan. A wide range of sectors and activities have been able to restart, in line with COVID-19 Secure guidelines, and restrictions have been have eased on social contact.

    The government has published guidance on staying alert and staying safe outside your home. This is national guidance that applies to England only, but if you live in an area that is experiencing a local Covid-19 outbreak and where local lockdown measures have been imposed, different guidance and legislation will apply.  Please consult the local lockdown restrictions page to see if any restrictions are in place in your area. 

    This page sets out what you can and can’t do. The next stage of opening up the economy and society includes the following steps:

    From 24 July:

    Face coverings will be required in shops and supermarkets - in addition to public transport where they are already required. People are also strongly encouraged to wear face coverings in other enclosed public spaces where there are people they do not normally meet.

    From 25 July:

    Sports facilities and venues, including such as indoor gyms, fitness and dance studios and indoor swimming pools can open.

    From 1 August:

    Employers will have more discretion, in consultation with their employees, on how to ensure people can work safely - working from home is one way to do this, but workplaces can also be made safe by following COVID-19 Secure guidelines.

    The clinically extremely vulnerable will no longer need to follow advice on shielding.

    Further pilots of larger events can take place in venues, including in sports stadia and business conferences (on 31 July the government announced that pilot testing crowds at events is on hold). 

    From 8 August:

    Face coverings will be required in more indoor settings.

    From 1 September:

    Schools, nurseries and colleges will open for all children and young people on a full-time basis. Universities are working to reopen as fully as possible

    From 1 October:

    The government will bring back audiences in stadiums, and allow conferences and other business events to recommence in a COVID-19 Secure way. 

    From November:

    Remaining social distancing measures will be scaled back contingent on a number of factors, including consideration of the specific challenges as we move into winter.

    You should not:

    • Socialise indoors in groups of more than two households (anyone in your support bubble counts as one household) – this includes when dining out or going to the pub
    • Socialise outdoors in a group of more than six people from different households; gatherings larger than six should only take place if everyone is from exclusively from two households or support bubbles
    • Interact socially with anyone outside the group you are attending a place with, even if you see other people you know, for example, in a restaurant, community centre or place of worship
    • Hold or attend celebrations (such as parties) where it is difficult to maintain social distancing, besides small wedding celebrations as outlined above
    • Stay overnight away from your home with members of more than one other household (your support bubble counts as one household)

    It is against the law for gatherings of more than 30 people to take place in private homes (including gardens and other outdoor spaces). Businesses and venues following COVID-19 Secure guidelines can host larger groups provided they comply with the law. If attending a place or event that is following COVID-19 Secure guidelines, you should take care to limit your interactions with anyone outside of your group and you should continue to maintain social distancing from those that you do not live with. It is critical that you follow these guidelines to keep both yourself and others safe.

     Recreational boating in Scotland

    Boating in Scotland returned on 3 July, as travel distance and overnight restrictions are eased.

    Updated guidance available at the Return to Boating page of the RYA Scotland website continues to provide support and detailed guidance across all forms of boating.

    The latest advice for the Scottish boating community on support during the Coronavirus pandemic is provided here.

    Follow the RYA Scotland website for up to date information in Scotland.

    Recreational Boating in Northern Ireland

    The Department of Health has released up-to-date guidance on its restrictions and public health advice.

    The purpose of this guidance is to provide clear information and advice for the public on (a) the restrictions in law on movement and activities during the pandemic and (b) what you, your business, your place of worship or your organisation can and should do to limit the spread of COVID-19.

    The guidance is in four sections: 

    (1) What the regulations mean for you as an individual citizen 
    (2) What the regulations mean for your business 
    (3) What the regulations mean for your voluntary, community or faith-based organisation; and 
    (4) Public health advice

    Overnight stays onboard can now take place with the easing of restrictions on second homes. You may gather outdoors with up to thirty other people who are not members of your household (in doing so you should maintain social distancing) and you may participate in an indoor gathering where all the persons in the gathering are elite athletes and the gathering is essential for training or competition purposes.  

    The NI Executive is seeking to move quickly to relax the restrictions provided it is safe to do so. The regulations are reviewed every three weeks and each restriction will be lifted once it is no longer necessary.

    More information from RYA Northern Ireland can be found here.

    Recreational Boating in Wales

    Travel restrictions in Wales ended on 6 July. Additionally, potential overnight stays on boats, within the same household, will be allowed from 11 July onwards.

    The RYA Cymru Wales Return to Boating Wales will be updated and a notification sent to Affiliated Clubs and Recognised Training Centres earliest opportunity via email and our social media channels.  

    Further details for Wales can be found here.

    Private boat insurance

    The RYA’s advice to all our members is that you should check your insurance policy with your insurers no matter what the policy itself actually states, particularly if your policy pre-dates the Covid-19 pandemic measures. Our understanding is that most insurers are willing to extend the period when boats are left unattended and we would be surprised if any insurer refused to extend this provision, although there is likely to be a condition that the vessel must have been adequately maintained prior to lockdown. 

    UK canals and rivers

    The majority of Canal & River Trust (CRT) navigations are now open with a few exceptions. 

    Guidance on Environment Agency waterways was last updated on 30 June 2020.   

    Recreational boating abroad

    The FCO has updated its global advisory against 'all but essential' travel, exempting destinations that no longer pose an unacceptably high risk for British travellers.  Find out which countries are exempt.    

    The European Union has set up a new website and a mobile app where you can see if travel is possible to each member state, the requirements of each destination, and other information to answer travellers’ questions. Go to Re-open EU for travel information and guidelines for each destination.

    Noonsite provides a considerable amount of information that may help recreational boaters abroad and its Covid-19 document has guidance as well as links to all the latest developments.   

    Noonsite has also produced a new mapping feature on its website which can be accessed from the small blue icon on the right hand side of the Noonsite screen.

    Entering or returning to the UK

    Coronavirus regulations mean that you must self-isolate for 14 days on entering or returning to the UK. Before your arrival in the UK, you must complete a passenger locator form. You must present these details on your arrival in England. This applies to both visitors and UK residents. There are a small number of groups of people who are exempt.

    However, the government is satisfied that it is now safe to ease these measures in England and you may not have to self-isolate when you arrive if you are returning from one of the countries or territories listed here. That is because these countries or territories are:

    • covered by the travel corridor exemption;
    • within the common travel area (Ireland, the Channel Islands, the Isle of Man);
    • British overseas territories.

    However, you will still need to self-isolate if you visited or made a transit stop in a country that is not on the list in the 14 days before your return to England.

    This applies to all travel to England, by train, ferry, coach, air or any other route.

    In Scotland and unless you are arriving from an exempted country or work in an exempted sector, residents and visitors will:

    • need to provide journey and contact details when travelling to Scotland
    • not be allowed to leave the place you are staying for the first 14 days they are in Scotland except in very limited situations.

    The Scottish regulations apply to people who live in Scotland and who are returning from outside Scotland, as well as to people visiting Scotland. These measures apply to international travel into Scotland irrespective of the point of entry into the UK.

    In Northern Ireland the travel regulations mean that you must self-isolate for 14 days if you return to Northern Ireland from a country outside the Common Travel Area (CTA) unless you are travelling from, or transiting through, a low to medium risk country or territory that is exempt.

    The CTA includes the following places, and only applies if you were there for 14 days or more:

    • England, Scotland and Wales
    • Republic of Ireland
    • Channel Islands
    • Isle of Man

    If you have been in the CTA for the last 14 days before entering Northern Ireland you do not need to complete the form or self-isolate.

    Further travel advice for Northern Ireland is provided here.

    In Wales, this guidance is provided for people travelling from outside of the UK.  It is for people arriving directly in Wales and for those arriving at a port elsewhere in the UK and then travelling on to Wales. 

    International recreational vessel arrivals

    Attention is drawn to the following requirements for those arriving at a UK port on recreational vessels from overseas. 

    Unless exempt, all international recreational maritime arrivals entering the UK will need to quarantine for 14 days on arrival into the UK. This self-isolation can be completed on the vessel if arrivals choose to do so. These rules apply to both UK residents and visitors. 

    All international recreational maritime vessels arriving in the UK, apart from those travelling from the Republic of Ireland, Channel Islands and Isle of Man (the Common Travel Area/CTA), must complete a mandatory Passenger Locator Form.   

    To get in touch

    Should RYA members require any advice related to the guidance on this page please do not hesitate to get in touch. Your point of contact for this is the RYA Cruising Team on +44 (0) 23 8060 4233 (please have your membership number to hand when you call) or email cruising@rya.org.uk (please include your membership number in your email).

    For other enquiries, call the RYA on +44 (0) 23 8060 4100.  Please listen to all the options and select the right one for you. Calls are redirected to our mobile phones and we cannot redirect calls, this means you will have to redial.

    Page updated: 4 August 2020

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